By Greg Borlan, Founder of New Jersey Combat Hapkido and P.I.N.K.S. Self Defense for Women
In my time as a police officer, martial artist and self-defense instructor, I have taught many classes specifically on women’s self defense. A very common question I am asked is something to the effect of, “Should I fight back? Won’t that just make my attacker angry and more violent?” The interesting point is that everyone expects a one sentence, yes or no answer. The fact of the matter is, like most things, it is a little more complicated than that.
In response to that question, I offer you this to think about. Self defense is very personal. Self defense is very situational and fact specific. I will not be in your pocket if you ever have to defend yourself in a violent encounter, coaching you through every possibility. You will have to make reasonable, sound, situational based decisions and carry them through to their conclusion.
What I can do however is offer you the following general points, to help guide you in your decision-making process:
1) Self-defense is very personal.
Through training I can give you the skills and teach you the winning mindset. When it comes down to that moment however, I refer to a Sean Connery quote from the movie the Untouchables: “What are you prepared to do?!?!” We don’t choose the situations, they choose us. In order to end a life-threatening encounter and get home safely to your loved ones, you may have to take violent action. I can tell you what I am willing to do, but only you can answer that question for yourself. Something to think about!
2) Self-defense is very situational.
There is a vast difference between some drunk at a wedding who grabs you to dance and some guy in a ski mask trying to put you in the trunk of his car! Your reactions should be different as well. In the legal aftermath of self-defense situations, you may have to justify your actions. You will be judged by the “Reasonable Man Standard”. This is a gender-neutral term that translates to “What would a reasonable person in a similar situation do under the circumstances?” In other words, you should be able to articulate why you took the actions you did and why you thought they were necessary.
For clarification, the level of force and violent action that you use against the man in the ski mask and the drunk at the wedding are not the same. One is clearly an immediate life-threatening situation and the other may not be. I cannot be there to help you make that decision (refer back to self defense is very personal). The point is that whatever decision you make, you better be able to reasonably justify your actions.
3) Your possessions are replaceable and not worth your life!
If the situation is a street robbery and the bad guy wants your Louis Vuitton purse and your coach wallet, I recommend that you give them up. No matter how expensive, they are replaceable and not worth your life! This goes for your car as well. Whether you’re driving a mini-van or the newest model Mercedes, it’s all the same…. replaceable! NOT worth fighting for your life over!
4) Self Defense is very fact specific!
Let’s take that same carjacking situation from above where you gave up your minivan. Now your children are strapped in the rear seats! Boy that slight change in the fact pattern means a world of difference, doesn’t it? I for one can tell you that the fight is on and I am never giving up! You must make that decision for yourself.
5) Don’t let the bad guy remove you from your location.
Studies have shown that if an attacker is attempting to remove you from a location, he has bad intentions and it will most likely not end well for you. In a situation like this I recommend that you fight like your life depends on it, because it probably does!
I hope this gives you some insight and guidance when you have to make those very personal and fact specific self defense decisions. In closing I will leave you with two pertinent sayings that I use often in my self defense teachings. The first one is pretty straightforward: “Life is difficult, Life is Messy; Make the best decisions that you can”.
The second one is a street slang saying I picked up from a violent criminal we were hunting several years ago. “If you’re gonna come, you’d better come correct!” In other words, the fight is not over, until the fight is over. You had better be prepared!
Greg Borlan is a 5th degree Black Belt Master Instructor in Combat Hapkido, a practical, real-life self defense system, and has been studying martial arts for over 13 years. He is the founder of New Jersey Combat Hapkido and P.I.N.K.S. Self Defense for Women (Preventive Information Necessary Knowledge of Self Defense) structured to teach women the skills, abilities and winning mindset to survive a violent encounter. Greg is also a Police Captain, with over 23 years of law enforcement experience, and a certified instructor for the MUNIO Self Defense Workshops.